I have a friend who swears a 90s revival is around the corner. It’s going to be big and it’s going to make industrial music popular again.
But while my friend wasn’t looking, the 90s revival already has come, but not in the form he envisioned. In the past several years, there have been an explosion of dreampop and shoegaze bands leaping out of their dens and onto our stages, putting any so-called 90s revival much more in the debt of bands that followed My Bloody Valentine than those that followed Nine Inch Nails.
DC is going to be hit with more than its share of these bands in the next several months as they tour into and out of both South by Southwest and Coachella. So it’s a shame that most of the hipsterati who have made these bands happen missed out on perhaps some of the most interesting that their genre has to offer Sunday night at DC9 with the team of Boy Friend and Young Prisms. While I personally have a strong preference for bands that make you dance, both bands spun an exceptional cocoon of hazy, dreamy pop music that would have woke up anyone looking for something slightly different from these well-worn sounds.
First, Boy Friend are a cowgirl duo from Austin, Texas, who give their ethereal dreampop a Texas-flavored twang with a wholly pleasant combination of vocalist Christa Palazzolo on synthesizer and Sarah Brown on guitar. Surprisingly sweeping songs of yearning like “Lovedropper” set the tone for their debut album, Egyptian Wrinkle, which floats softly like a fabric it appears to invoke. The pair’s soaring vocals and simple formula have drawn comparisons to the Cocteau Twins, but Boy Friend are an entirely American production. They drove that point home by closing with a wonderfully stripped down cover of Pat Benatar’s “We Belong.”
Boy Friend are traveling with Young Prisms up to SXSW later this month, when the San Francisco shoegazers surely will surprise most with their melodic second album, In Between. The band makes good use of its female members — Stefanie Hodapp and Ashley Thomas — on their new material. Indeed, during their more upbeat moments, Hodapp almost emerges from the rest of the fuzzy collective, which includes drummer Jordan Silbert, guitarist Matt Allen, and bassist Gio Betteo. Moments like the single “Floating in Blue,” offer vocals courtesy of Hodapp that serve as icing on a crumbly cake of soft guitars that come together in a very satisfying way.
I would be remiss not to mention local openers Ceremony out of Fredericksburg, Va., as they were the most exciting band according to my traditional musical tastes. The band apparently takes its name from the Joy Division song, and they serve up the sort of post-punk rhythms you would expect from such a band. But Ceremony sounds a hell of a lot more like their modern-day contemporaries The Horrors, particularly on their newest song, “Not Tonight.” Both bands have a knack for blending sounds from post-punk and shoegaze that I would not otherwise have imagined go well together.
In concert, band founders Paul Baker and John Fedowitz (vocals, guitars, bass, drums) were wonderfully complemented by drummer Ben Wood, who definitely delivered non-stop drumming in the style of Stephen Morris to back up the big bright guitars of his bandmates.
Ceremony seem like they’ve been a bit inactive lately but hopefully this most recent gig suggests they’ll at least hit the clubs around DC a bit more regularly in the near future.